Welcoming Opportunity

Overwhelmed is a word I use in most of my workshops and keynotes. I use it to describe why it can be difficult to reach people on the phone today and why it’s vital for all of us to know our customers’ needs and be precise with our information. Almost everyone has a to do list that’s too long.

Having said that, it’s important that we don’t allow our “overwhelmed” to rob us of opportunities.  When we put our entire focus on being effective, efficient and productive, it’s possible we miss out on new and exciting possibilities.

I’ve been reminded of this the past few weeks as I’ve attempted to reach senior executives at a company on behalf of an investor. These executives know me. We’ve met and I’ve delivered a workshop to their staff . But today they are incredibly difficult to reach and I believe it’s because they’ve created systems to help them stay focused. But those systems are keeping me – and my investor – out.

My several calls to the company have been routed to what I believe is an answering service. While professional in every way, the service lacks the “tone” of welcome, and other voices in the background indicate a multiple-phone environment. The receptionist is unable to tell me whether the person I am calling is in, on vacation, will be free this afternoon, etc. Each time I am put on hold and then told the person is not available but a message will be passed along. There is no voice mail option.

Companies that eliminate voice mail do so to free up time. Executives provide a direct line or cellphone number to clients and prospects with whom they want to communicate. This makes for less interruption of focused work by unexpected phone calls. And I suspect these companies also rely a lot on email.

While this streamlining does make sense on many levels, but is also builds a wall. Opportunity needs a window.

Due to the sensitive nature of my call, I am uncomfortable leaving too many details with a receptionist, particularly one I believe does not work directly for the company. I’ve used my basic “I have one quick question” and provided my availability, but no one has called me back. And I’m not selling something. I’m calling to introduce someone who wants to invest in their business. While this may not interest them, I’m confident it’s an opportunity they’d want to consider.

Will I connect with them? Yes – I’ll reach out to a wider circle and track down a cellphone number. Or I’ll send email and set up a specific time to talk.  I’m unusually stubborn – someone else with an opportunity might simply move on.

Now compare this with another company I approached on behalf of the investor. I called the CEO’s executive assistant. Again, I know the company and have delivered workshops to their staff. The executive assistant answered the phone. I explained why I was calling. She agreed it was of value and suggested I email both herself and the CEO. Within 24 hours a meeting was organized.

While I do understand the need for focus and efficiency, it’s important to remember that the phone can be a harbinger of good news, of opportunity and possibility.

What are your thoughts? Have you encountered a corporate “wall” when trying to reach someone with an opportunity? How did you handle it? Or have you created system to help you stay focused? Is it a wall or a window?

Enjoy your PhoneWork everyone!


0 thoughts on “Welcoming Opportunity”

  1. Hi Mary Jane
    Informative article about phone “walls.” The walls that I have recently encountered is that no phone number or email is provided on a company website. The only way to contact them is through an online form. Some people respond and some don’t . This reeks of elitism to me: ie: they are too important to talk to just “anyone”.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Peggy. It points to the fact that we do need to keep a conversation going about this communication issue. I truly believe that companies that set up these systems are simply trying to make themselves more efficient. They don’t realize all of the consequences of the systems they’ve put in place. Question: Have you done a general Google Search for the company’s phone number? Include “phone number” in your search and it may come up on a press release or in a directory listing. Also if they are publicly traded, it does need to be listed somewhere, i.e. investors must have phone access. Look for press releases and investor relations information. The other possibility is that, based on their behaviour, they are not an ideal client for you. mj


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